Husband and I chose September 3, 2005, as our wedding date for several reasons, chief among them the fact that our anniversary will always fall on or near Labor Day weekend. We will always have a really good reason -- and a few days off work -- to enjoy a long weekend, or an even longer trip. For our first anniversary we took a weekend trip to Toronto and ate the most amazing salty caramel-chocolate dessert that you can imagine. We did lots of walking and shopping, too, but really, for me that trip was all about that cake.
Last year, for our second anniversary, we were able to get away for a week-long trip to Wyoming and South Dakota. Husband's uncle lives near Cheyenne, Wyoming, so we flew into Denver, rented a bitchin' Mustang and visited Cheyenne for a few days. In addition to being a really cool town, Cheyenne possesses some of the best-looking signs I've ever seen.
We then headed north to Devil's Tower before turning east toward Rapid City, South Dakota. We visited Deadwood, where we won $164 in a casino and had an amazing anniversary meal at the Deadwood Social Club above Saloon No. 10.
We enjoyed Mount Rushmore, where we stayed for the nighttime lighting of the monument -- a moving and beautiful ceremony. We took several trips through Custer State Park (the best-kept secret in the Black Hills!), stopped at kitsch-Mecca Wall Drug and hiked the Badlands. We even went horseback riding. To his delight, Husband rode a horsie named "Hot Dog."
I could write paragraph after paragraph about this trip, such was the stunning beauty of this part of the world and the unique experiences to be enjoyed therein. But I don't want to pain you, dear reader, with the minutiae of my vacation and thus I shall focus -- for now! -- on one memorable aspect of our trip: the Indian tacos at the Cedar Pass Lodge in the Badlands.
There are few places to stay in and around the Badlands. Cedar Pass Lodge, therefore, is an oasis of tiny cabins nestled within the national park's harsh moonscape. We stayed there two nights: the first in a cozy cabin, the second in the property's "cottage," which is a small but very comfortable three-bedroom house. Cedar Pass Lodge has a restaurant, a gift shop and extremely friendly staff. Case in point: knowing full well the limited creature comforts within the Badlands (and the lack of nightlife), Husband and I purchased a six-pack of Corona at a bar in Wall, SD, to take with us to our cabin. Though we remembered to ask for lime slices, we neglected to realize that we did not have a bottle opener. Determined to access our brew, I strolled from our cabin to the restaurant/gift shop building on Cedar Pass Lodge's grounds to see if I could borrow one. The kind staff were hanging out on a picnic bench behind the building, as the restaurant had closed for the evening. Doing one better than lending me a bottle opener, they gave me one from the gift shop that is in the shape of a little buffalo. That is what I call impressive service.
Both of the days we were in the Badlands, we took our meals at the Cedar Pass Lodge restaurant. And nearly every one of those meals involved Indian tacos. Depending on the hour of the day, the Indian taco at Cedar Pass Lodge consists of a delicious piece of fry bread topped with (a) an omelet or (b) ground and spiced buffalo meat. What makes this meal so delicious is the fry bread itself -- which I can best describe as a sort of non-powdered-sugared version of the funnel cake. Though fried in at least an inch of oil, it is nevertheless very light and crispy. Its marginal sweetness is a sensational foil to the salty savory-ness of an omelet or, as Husband tells me, the spicy meatiness of ground buffalo.
At first blush, it would seem -- to me at least -- that the Indian taco would not be very tasty. Oh, to make that assumption is erroneous indeed. I have never been one to enjoy sweet things in my savory, and vice versa. However, I've of late developed quite a taste for salty caramel sauce as an accompaniment to rich, sweet chocolate cake (see: anniversary trip to Toronto) and I can't say I didn't salivate over the lightly sweet fry bread's encroachment on my onion-y, peppery, salty omelet. What can I say; my palate is evolving.
This recipe comes from Cedar Pass Lodge itself; they have little cards printed with the fry bread recipe free for the taking in the gift shop. The fry bread is surprisingly simple to make, requiring little more than a bowl, your hands and about 15 minutes. The most challenging part of this recipe is cleaning up the oil-splattered stove and you just might be able to wrangle someone into doing that for you -- considering that you just made a delicious breakfast from scratch and all.
Even if you don't top the bread with an omelet or ground meat spiced with taco seasonings, the fry bread is well worth making and enjoying on its own. Even so, I do not make Indian tacos with any level of frequency: they are special and evoke a particularly happy time and place in my life and, like all good food with an emotional connection should be, are treated almost reverentially in my kitchen. But it's a long holiday weekend and Husband is home and it just feels like the right time to revisit Cedar Pass Lodge via fried food. Best to celebrate fry bread over Memorial Day weekend, for who knows where our third anniversary trip will take us this Labor Day?
INDIAN TACOS, BREAKFAST-STYLE
Adapted from the Cedar Pass Lodge's recipe
For the fry bread:
1/4 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 t. kosher salt
3 t. baking powder
1 c. water, or enough to make a soft dough
Vegetable oil, for frying
For the omelets:
4 large eggs
1 small white or yellow onion, sliced
2 T. butter
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 c. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Make the fry bread. Using a whisk, mix together the sugar, flour, salt and baking powder. Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead briefly, until the dough comes together and is smooth. The dough is very soft and slightly sticky; add more flour to your hands and work surface as necessary.
Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil over medium-low heat until it reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the oil is heating, cook the omelets. Melt 1 T. butter in a non-stick skillet. Add half of the sliced onions to the butter and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the egg mixture for one of the omelets and cook until the egg is set. Sprinkle with 1/4 c. shredded cheese; set aside. Repeat for the second omelet.
When the vegetable oil reaches 350 degrees, carefully lower one of the pieces of fry bread dough into the pan. Fry until the bread is golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Watch carefully, though: the bread can burn quickly. Remove to a wire rack set over a cookie sheet to drain. Repeat with the second piece of fry bread dough.
It should be noted that, of course, you can add whatever toppings you like to your omelet. I've chosen onions and cheese because that's how they served it at Cedar Pass Lodge, and I like the idea of keeping it simple to allow the tantalizingly crisp and subtly sweet fry bread to shine.
If you would like to adapt this recipe for lunch or dinner, instead of the egg Cedar Pass Lodge recommends browning 1 lb. of buffalo meat or beef, combining it with 32 oz. refried beans and 1-2 packages of taco seasoning. Then spread the meat mixture on the fry bread, topping with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and salsa to taste. This also works marvelously with ground chicken or turkey if you, like me, are not so into buffalo or beef.
Makes 2 tacos that are large enough to fuel a strenuous day of hiking in the Badlands. If you are not hiking in the Badlands or, say, plowing fields by hand, you may wish to halve the recipe or use it to feed 4 people.